Child growth standards

Development of a WHO growth reference for school-aged children and adolescents

de Onis M, Onyango AW, Borghi E, Siyam A, Nishida C, Siekmann J.

Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2007;85:660-7.

Objective

To construct growth curves for school-aged children and adolescents that accord with the WHO Child Growth Standards for preschool children and the body mass index (BMI) cut-offs for adults.

Methods

Data from the 1977 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)/WHO growth reference (1–24 years) were merged with data from the under-fives growth standards’ cross-sectional sample (18–71 months) to smooth the transition between the two samples. State-of-the-art statistical methods used to construct the WHO Child Growth Standards (0–5 years), i.e. the Box-Cox power exponential (BCPE) method with appropriate diagnostic tools for the selection of best models, were applied to this combined sample.

Findings

The merged data sets resulted in a smooth transition at 5 years for height-for-age, weight-for-age and BMI-for-age. For BMI-for-age across all centiles the magnitude of the difference between the two curves at age 5 years is mostly 0.0 kg/m² to 0.1 kg/m². At 19 years, the new BMI values at +1 standard deviation (SD) are 25.4 kg/m² for boys and 25.0 kg/m² for girls. These values are equivalent to the overweight cut-off for adults (> 25.0 kg/m²). Similarly, the +2 SD value (29.7 kg/m² for both sexes) compares closely with the cut-off for obesity (> 30.0 kg/m²).

Conclusion

The new curves are closely aligned with the WHO Child Growth Standards at 5 years, and the recommended adult cut-offs for overweight and obesity at 19 years. They fill the gap in growth curves and provide an appropriate reference for the 5 to 19 years age group.

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